Saturday 16 October 2021

David's murder

   Cardinal Burke blesses David's rosary.

The murder of poor David Amess has shaken me. 

Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee. And for me. His foul murder makes me realise how much time has gone past since I was his research assistant in the summer of 1983,

Back then I was in sympathy with the Harold Macmillan wing of the Tory Party and had worked for Mr Macmillan's (not yet the Earl of Stockton's) son Maurice two years earlier. 

I had spared a half day from my studies to canvass for Norman St John Stevas in Chelmsford in the election. (He was a Catholic, like me and David, but not as good a one as David. He caressed his male friend's thigh in the car taking us to the next place to canvass, something which would then have been a scandal had the public known.) 

I chose to canvass with St John Stevas because he was the reverse of a Thatcherite. 

He said to me while we were canvassing that
'We'll have to disenfranchise the unemployed. They'll be the majority next time.'

I enjoyed that and feared how high unemployment would rise. 

David was devoted to Mrs Thatcher, very opposed to mass immigration and the European Economic Community. 

But he was a Conservative and I loved working in the House of Commons, so he was one of the many MPs to whom I wrote for a summer job and he offered me one.

I ignorantly thought then and throughout the 1980s that the EEC was a good thing, though I didn't want any more integration than we had then. That shows how utterly ignorant I was on the subject, but so were most people in those days. It was a closed subject since the 1975 referendum.

David, unlike me, was in favour of capital punishment and, of course, like all devout Catholics (except in America) opposed to abortion.

We had nothing in common at all. He was slightly smarmy but a nice, kind man with no side and a very good man, a better man than me. 

He was a cockney from a poor family who understood the common man because he was one. 

He went to Bournemouth Tech to study business after school and then founded a company that recruited accountants. I learn today that he bought himself a Rolls Royce. Good for him.

His very surprising victory in the safe Labour seat of Basildon was a symbol of the 1983 Tory triumph, just as his very surprising win in 1992 told viewers that the Tories would hold onto power, even though the BBC which mixed its exit poll results with real votes continued to predict a hung Parliament with Labour ahead.

Candidates did not often in those days decide election results, but both victories were in part the result of David's tenacity, just as the fact that Chelmsford was not a safe seat but a Conservative Liberal marginal was a comment on St John Stevas's snobbish and camp personality.  

David was Essex Man, a phrase which in about 1984 was brought into political vogue by my Cambridge contemporary Simon Heffer. 

St John Stevas was his antithesis and neither respected in the House (according to David) nor his constituency.

David was about to be married to his pretty fiancee then. They were married for 36 years and had five children. This commands my deep respect.

He, of course, opposed single-sex marriage and anti-discrimination laws. I was sorry and very surprised when he told me he was opposed to hunting. 

In those days hunting, capital punishment and abortion were the stuff we were asked to debate at school and both sides of each question had many supporters.

David voted to invade Iraq, which was wrong and he regretted it. He was one of the few MPs who tried to impeach Tony Blair. 

He was also and more courageously one of the small number of Conservative MPs who voted with Labour against David Cameron and the Conservative government when they wanted an intervention in Syria. 

They along with Ed Miliband deserve the credit for stopping it happening. That was his finest hour. 

I am terribly, terribly shocked that a Catholic priest was summoned to David's side as he struggled to live and the police did not allow him to administer the last rites because it was the scene of a crime. 

What sort of police do we have now? 

I suppose for readers who are not Catholic this must sound slightly like Brideshead Revisited.

Twitter is much more respectful today than it normally is. I agree with Jacob Rees-Mogg, yet another Catholic.

Jacob Rees-Mogg
David Amess was a holy man who strove for good. May the angels lead him into paradise; may the martyrs receive him at his arrival and lead him to the holy city Jerusalem. May choirs of angels receive him and may he have eternal rest.
Brad Harmer-Barnes
David Amess voted in favour of the prohibition of abortion, against gay marriage and against equal age of consent in LGBT relationships.
Good riddance.
Jacob Phillips
BBC journalist says 'although he had strong views, he was well-liked by his constituents'. Unbelievable.
Baghwallah Flag of United Kingdom Flag of Iceland Flag of Liechtenstein Flag of NorwayFlag of Switzerland
Replying to
I've heard three interviews today (including one with a priest) that went like this:
Interviewee: He was a Catholic, of course, and a committed campaigner for the rights of the unborn...
Interviewer: <Gulp> Haha. Tell me about his interest in animal rights...

William Kedjanyi
The killing of David Amess was senseless & heartbreaking. But I feel quite upset at the term “African appearance” for the description of his subject, and then the repetition of that on broadcasts & online. It’s depressing to me that a member of the public would use that phrase

Godfrey Bloom
This government imports thousands of people via Dover, we don't know who they are or from whence they came.
This is not about a few extremists, this is an invasion by hostile people, mainly young males.
We are ALL at risk.


  1. I too am very sorry about his murder, he may not have been on my side of politics, but he did a great deal of good ,and was firm in his principles. I'm sad that you too have lost someone you know in circumstances similar to myself. However in my case you described her death as irrelevant and simply in terms of how it might affect your politics.

  2. Christopher Newbury has been having trouble commenting and asked me to post this on his behalf:

    Rees Mogg hits the right note. Godders speaks for what’s left of England.
    Your short piece is good too.

  3. Gavin Dixon:
    I had a lot of time for David. He and I were in contact with each other fairly regularly on a variety of matters with me wearing a variety of hats. It could be a debt advice manager hat, or a "blessing of the catch" hat or a church leader in the town hat. It mattered not which one, as I enjoyed working together with him in any of these different arenas. He was always encouraging of the ministry of all the churches here in Leigh. He valued the role they played, and sought to play his part in encouraging and enabling greater activity to better the Borough. He was a sincere man of faith, and although we disagreed on certain political matters, there was enough to agree on to make working together very easy. I was very grateful for his attendance celebrating 10 years of our debt advice ministry, and he used our client room as one of the venues of his regular surgeries. There is a deep sense of sadness and shock here in Southend, right across the community. We have lost a fantastic MP who worked hard for all his constituents, not just those who voted for him. Our prayers are for his wife, Julia, and his 5 children, and his wider family.

  4. I was always on the same side as David Amess on just about everything. No doubt it will also be "good riddance" when I am dead. However, this is not a time for politics - a good man has died, and we must trust in God to care for his soul.

  5. I did not know that David Amess had met Cardinal Burke - another good man.